Have you ever had a pair of “rabbit ears” on TV when you were growing up? If you have done so, you may have to tune them in different ways for different stations. That’s because different frequencies are reflected, amplified, and attenuated by the things in your house in different ways, so getting strong and continuous waves across all channels can be difficult. .
The same is true for digital TVs, but without the notch, the only way you can affect the reception is by moving the antenna around the room. Channel Master CM-3001HD Smartenna + changes all that.
At first glance, the Smartenna + looks like a typical indoor TV antenna. It’s a sheathed, flat plastic panel that connects the antenna cable. But it’s much smarter than a conventional antenna. Inside are a basic TV tuner and an amplified antenna that can be electrically changed to any of the seven types of reception.
This review is part of TechHive’s coverage of the best TV antennas, where you will find reviews of competitive products, along with a buyer’s guide to the features you should consider when shopping.
When you plug in the antenna, the antenna cycles through each pattern and counts the number of TV channels it can receive with each model. Once done, it will solve an issue that will bring you the largest number of channels. This technology is based on “control antennas” used in certain smartphones and Wi-Fi routers and access points to improve reception.
It seems too complicated for a small antenna, so we put it to the test.
There are a few things to keep in mind when setting up Smartenna +. First, you need to find a location near a power outlet, as the antenna needs power. Channel Master provides a 6-foot power cord and a 16-foot coax cable with the antenna and power adapter in the middle. If you can’t find a place within reach, you can buy a longer cable.
The supplied cable features a neat new cinch connector, designed to maintain good electrical conductivity without twisting (you just need to push in).
The second thing to remember is that you should hang it on the wall before you plug it in. That’s because as soon as you connect the source, it will start scanning for channels. The white LED on the base of the device flashes to show its scan progress, and after a few minutes, when the LED is off, it’s done.
After the antenna has stabilized on a model, you need to run a scan on your TV – the tuner in the antenna does not replace the tuner in your TV.
Now cycle through the channels. If you notice any pattern being broken, you can manually switch through the different models to see if one model improves reception. Give the little button at the bottom of the Smartenna + one press and you get one, two taps for image two, etc.
Manual switching between models is available because the antenna is stable on its selected model based on the largest number of channels available. But it doesn’t know what’s on those channels, so it might settle on a pattern that isn’t optimized for your favorite station.
After doing a scan, I found the breakup on a local station and tried out different samples. Certainly, a clear break down for this channel when I reach pattern four.
During automatic scanning, Smartenna + managed to receive nine broadcast stations with a total of 45 channels. Our current top-rated indoor amplifier antenna, Winegard Flatwave Amped, manages one more station with two additional channels. That add-on is a station out of the market, which suggests the Winegard model might be a bit more sensitive, but Channel Master might be better for you, especially if many of the stations you get are broken.
Channel Master has developed a pretty smooth system, but it’s important to remember that it’s not a cure for all your TV reception problems. There are a lot of compromises to be made with indoor TV antennas and the image clipping that comes with the territory.
Using Smartenna + may improve the reliability of your channels do received, and it might help you some more, but it can’t magically solve all of your reception problems. Some channels will remain poor. (For reference, the Smartenna + received up to 45 channels in the tests while the outdoor antenna at the same point received 68).
Channel Master Smartenna + can be particularly useful in locations where reception is not essential, but is prone to rupture by nearby buildings or trees.